Friday, December 02, 2016

EDINBURGH LABOUR: Draft Manifesto launch-note

I've had several requests to blog my launch-note from the event on Wednesday --- so here is the text I spoke to, for all those interested:

Our Edinburgh; a European City to be proud of …

Good morning colleagues.

Many thanks for attending this morning.

Great to see so many of you here – existing Councillors, new candidates, and some friends from the local press too.

Today Edinburgh Labour is launching its Draft Manifesto for next May’s Local Government Elections.

Believe it or not, there are 22-weeks from tomorrow until the 4th May 2017 – just a little over 15-days!

And by this coming Monday (5th December) night; all 23 of our local candidates will be in place, and our selections will be complete.

I’m delighted to see several of our new (already selected) candidates here this morning.

Along with the launch of our Draft Manifesto today, we’re making a clear statement-of-intent about how important these upcoming elections are to Edinburgh.

And – in the next 15minutes or so, I want to cover 3 brief areas:

1.    How we’ve arrived at today

2.    What’s happened for the last 5-years

3.    Our pledges for the next 5-years

Then I’ll be happy to take questions, and we can also help with any required photos at the end of the meeting – all of which should conclude by 11am latest.

1.    How we’ve arrived at today

We obviously went into Opposition in 2007 – having been in power for 33-years beforehand; from 1984-2007

It was a salutary lesson to lose power, and one which we worked hard to learn from and to become stronger because of.

I became Group Leader in June 2008, 1-year after we lost power, and we did our very best to be a constructive – but robust – Opposition, to the then Coalition running the Capital City.

I’ll leave it to others to judge how effectively the Political Parties who then ran the Council (between 2007-2012) managed their business.

But for us – we focused on moving forward, and in 2011 we launched (in a first for Scottish Local Government) a Draft Manifesto, which we then very publicly consulted upon – and received over 1,000 submissions to the initial text.

As a result of the feedback we received last time, we ensured that several elements of our final 2012 Manifesto were strengthened – and we have now delivered:

·         open webcasting of all the main Council Meetings, which are archived and available for scrutiny by everyone
·         a Petitions Committee (Chaired by the Opposition) through which members of the public can directly raise local issues
·         a revised Audit Committee (again Chaired by the Opposition) which is able to scrutinise key Council decisions and hold those in power to account
·         an entirely renewed ‘Localities’ structure, with much more decision-making power being progressively devolved to local areas and local people
·         the use of Participatory Budgeting (PB) in ‘Localities’, wherein local residents choose their own budget priorities

And that 2012 finalised Manifesto did lead us to get back into power at the May Local Government Elections – after only 1-term in Opposition, which is a very unusual outcome electorally.

After that election, we openly published our local Coalition Agreement, and our 53-pledges … all of which is independently monitored by Council Officers, and routinely reported to Full Council.

We further – I would contest – provided a degree of stability that hadn’t been present in previous Council terms (in recent times) … with the current local Coalition making 38 out of the existing 58 Elected Members.

So ---

2.    What’s happened for the last 5-years

So --- as well as the changes referenced a moment ago … many of which led the way for Scottish Local Government, and none of which existed in Edinburgh prior to 2012 … I’m also particularly proud that Edinburgh Labour, very quickly:

·         Introduced the Living Wage for all of the Council’s workforce, leading the way for the rest of the Capital City … this benefitted literally thousands of low-paid Council employees
·         & settled the outstanding Equal Pay Issues … again benefitting literally thousands of low-paid female employees

--- both these issues were resolved/implemented within a few months of us coming back to power in 2012 … nothing had been done on them in the previous 5-years between 2007-2012.

Gaining back power has made a tangible difference to many thousands of low-paid workers!

And we achieved all of this against a backdrop of a reducing Central Government Budget, and increasing service-demands.

Providing a level of stability to the Council throughout – despite currently being on my third ‘Council Deputy Leader’, the junior Coalition partner having changed their Group Leader 3-times!

And other issues we’ve manged to deliver upon are – just some highlights:

·         Educational attainment levels at Standard and Higher Grades have seen year-on-year improvement for the last 5-years 
·         4,914 new affordable homes have been built since 2012, and the city is on target to deliver 16,000 new low cost homes over the next decade 
·         There has been increased support for vulnerable children, and help for families, so fewer go into care
·         There has been increased provision for homeless people in Edinburgh leading to reduced numbers of homelessness presentations and rough sleeping
·         Youth unemployment in the city has fallen from 4.5% in 2012 to just 0.6% now
·         1,426 quality, new energy efficient council homes have been completed, are under construction or in procurement
·         There has been a significant increase in care being delivered at home 
·         £8.6m has been provided to support vulnerable children and families through the Early Years Challenge Fund
·         There has been an extension of Breakfast Clubs, ensuring that support for a breakfast club is provided to every school which wants one
·         There has been £91m of investment into new school buildings for Portobello, James Gillespies and Boroughmuir High Schools – alongside St. John’s RC Primary School – and St. Crispin’s Special School
·         The percentage of school leavers in a positive destination has risen from 85.2% in 2010 to 93.1% now

Overall the Capital City has retained an enviable reputation:

·         we are frequently ranked as having the best ‘quality of life’ of any city, in the whole of the UK
·         the Scottish Capital also has the 2nd highest average wage rate in the UK
·         16% of people walk to work in Edinburgh - that's more than any other UK city
·         and the City's Festivals welcome over 3,000 performers, from nearly 50 countries, who carry out some 50,000 shows in over 300 venues – every year!

But – and it’s a very important qualification … the inequality gap in the City is still far too stark:

·         24% of our Secondary-age children go into the Private School Sector
·    whilst 22% of children in the Capital continue to live in families below the official poverty-line

Tackling this unacceptable inequality gap needs to be the absolute focus of our attention in the next 5-years.

3.    Our pledges for the next 5-years

Thus – today we’re launching a new Draft Manifesto, which we’ll consult publicly on for the next 3-months, right through until the 28th February 2017 …

… we’ll thereafter adjust the Manifesto, subsequent to the feedback we receive, before we launch our final document in March 2017.

The Draft we are launching today has six themes:

1.    Planning for Edinburgh’s Growth
2.    Young People and Education
3.    Affordable Housing for all
4.    Care and Compassion in our Society
5.    Jobs and the Local Economy
6.    Your Local Environment

--- and just to highlight one example-pledge, from each of those themes – we will:

1.    seek to ensure the delivery of a ‘City Region Deal’ for Edinburgh, Lothians, the Borders and Fife – that deal to include significant infrastructure funding, and new Housing-powers for local Councils

2.    there are already a number of community sports hubs across the city; Broughton High School has a school of music and dance, while Leith has a Confucius Institute specialising in the teaching of Mandarin;
§  other schools specialise in vocational courses or are recognised as leading in certain subject areas.
§  building on the Council’s move to localities (a more localised delivery of services), our partnership working in delivering the senior phase, and our existing sports hubs; we will investigate moves to set up more ‘specialist school hubs’ in
§  languages
§  science & technology
§  arts & the creative industries
§  and sport
... in High Schools right across the city.

3.    commit to deliver 8,000 new affordable homes over the next ten years and encouraging our Registered Social Landlord (RSL) partners to match this, bringing 16,000 affordable homes to Edinburgh in the next decade.

4.    we are committed to delivering 8 ‘Health and Social Care Community Hubs’ across the City.
§  these Hubs would be physical ‘one stop shops’ where people can speak directly to professionals in both the voluntary/statutory sector, about all of their health and care needs
§  This model is already used in other service-areas, and has proven to be extremely successful
§  We would deliver 2 ‘Health and Social Care Community Hubs’ in each Locality Area of the City.
5.    as a nation, we need to empower our cities to play a much fuller role in serving their people and stimulating their local economies - we will therefore press the Scottish Government over the required powers, and seek to introduce the following measures locally:
§  abandon the Council Tax freeze
§  extend Council Tax banding (if the Tax is not otherwise reformed) to embrace the wealthiest in our society
§  allow Council/s full control of Business Rates
§  adjust means settlement to allow Council/s full income of taxes generated locally
§  introduce the so-called ‘Tourist Visitor Levy’
§  introduce a form of Land Taxation on non-residential and non-business property, that isn’t subject to business rates (this is in relation to the management of land banks)
6.    we do need to do more on air pollution – as this is one of the most significant threats to the ‘quality of life’ we currently enjoy in our Capital City:
§  we will therefore consult on the implementation of Low Emissions Zones (LEZs) for the City
§  we will continue to develop quality public realm; and promote vehicle free areas, wherever feasible
§  we will also lobby the Scottish Government to devolve powers to Local Authorities, allowing them to :
o   consider the implementation of a ‘Workplace Parking Levy’
o   consider the implementation of an ‘Emissions Surcharge’
§  this will help reduce carbon, across all our activities, so that the national target of a 42% reduction is met by 2020

And a final reminder that we’ll consult publicly on these draft ideas for the next 3-months, right through until the 28th February 2017 …

… we’ll thereafter adjust the Manifesto, subsequent to the feedback we receive, before we launch our final document in March 2017.

This is a radical, bold set of proposals, which – given the chance – we will deliver upon prior to 2022.

Many thanks for listening.

Cllr Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council

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